31 Epic Hiking Spots You'll Only Find In Iowa
I have to keep telling people that Iowa isn’t just flat lands and endless cornfields and that there are actually endless wildlife areas and state parks full of rolling hills, rocky cliffs, and steep bluffs to keep any outdoor enthusiast or hiker busy. So, here are the 31
best hiking spots in Iowa to check out this year. Each trail has something to offer and is perfect for a day outdoors. Keep these on your list for the next time you have an afternoon free!
1. Backbone State Park: Located in Dundee, Iowa, Backbone was Iowa's very first state park. The park boasts 21 miles of rugged, winding trails, and plenty of limestone cliffs for climbers.
Backbone State Park Beach, Iowa 52038, USA
If you’re looking for fun things to do outdoors in Iowa, put
Backbone State Park
at the top of your list. You can even climb or rappel the rugged dolomite limestone cliffs.
2. Effigy Mounds: Effigy Mounds is located in Harpers Ferry, Iowa, and the area has a 14-mile trail system, as well as over 200 American Indian mounds.
Effigy Mounds National Monument, 151 IA-76, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146, USA
is a beautiful place to visit and learn the history of the area. They comprise a sacred area that is also one of the most stunning spots on the Upper Mississippi.
3. Ledges State Park: Located near Boone, Ledges is a favorite spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The park has a 5.4-mile trail, cliff areas, and many beautiful wildflowers.
Ledges State Park, P Avenue, Madrid, IA, USA
One of the most iconic parts of Ledges State Park is the sandstone ledges standing at over 100 feet tall. There’s also a stunning stone bridge spanning Peas Creek.
Ledges State Park
has so much to offer; it makes a wonderful day trip!
4. Loess Hills State Forest: Loess Hills is located in west-central Iowa in Harrison and Monona Counties. The park spans a sprawling 11,266 acres, and is a prime spot for hiking, fishing, picnicking, or site-seeing,
Loess Hills State Forest, Jackson Township, IA 51564, USA
This forest, filled with some of the most beautiful
trails in Iowa
is a lovely place to bring the whole family. You can camp, hike, and explore this incredible area.
5. Maquoketa Caves State Park: This popular spot in Maquoketa is a must-see for out-of-towners and in-staters alike. Six miles of trails, a beautiful forest, and waterfall are perfect for hikers, campers, and nature tourists.
Maquoketa Caves State Park, 9688 Caves Rd, Maquoketa, IA 52060, USA
These caves offer some of the most
unique hiking in Iowa.
There are so many caves to explore and grab your picnic to enjoy!
6. Mines of Spain State Recreation Area: The Mines of Spain in Dubuque is a perfect spot for hikers, with over 21 miles of trails. During winter, the area even opens up for cross-country skiers.
EB Lyons Interpretive Center, 8991 Bellevue Heights Rd, Dubuque, IA 52003, USA
The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area
spans 1,437 acres, so there’s so much to explore. Make sure to hike the Horseshoe Bluff Interpretive Trail, which is considered one of the best in the park. There are so many wonderful things to do outdoors in Iowa!
7. Pikes Peak State Park: Pikes Peak, located in McGregor, is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in Iowa. On its trails, hikers can look out over the valley from high bluffs and enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.
Pikes Peak State Park, 32264 Pikes Peak Rd, McGregor, IA 52157, USA
Pikes Peak State Park
has been called Iowa's Grand Canyon. In addition to hiking, you'll enjoy camping bird watching, wildlife, and a great deal more.
8. Hitchcock Nature Area, Honey Creek
Hitchcock Nature Center, 27792 Ski Hill Loop, Honey Creek, IA 51542, USA
Hitchcock Nature Center
consists of 1,268 acres located in the heart of the Loess Hills. The Loess Hills harbor some of the largest remaining prairie remnants in Iowa and provide refuge for plants and animals found nowhere else in the state. Hitchcock is open every day of the year for hiking, camping, picnicking, bird watching, snow sledding, star gazing, or simply enjoying nature. It has some of the most kid-friendly hikes in Iowa, filled with beautiful sights along the way.
9. Pine Lake State Park, Eldora
Pine Lake State Park, Iowa 50627, USA
Located in Eldora,
Pine Lake State Park
offers an extensive trail system that features some of the most scenic hikes in Iowa. Part of the trail is paved, part of it is rocky, but the scenes all around are breathtaking. There is also a sandy beach for swimmers in the summer, as well as a picnic shelter.
10. Wapsipinicon State Park, Anamosa
21301 Co Rd E34, Anamosa, IA 52205, USA
Wapsipinicon State Park,
dedicated in 1923, was one of Iowa's first state parks. The sandstone and limestone bluffs in the 394-acre park are covered with moss and columbine, and hiking through a multitude of flowers, trees, and wildlife leads one to splendid views from the bluffs.
11. Wabash Trace Nature Trail, Western Iowa
Wabash Trace Nature Trail, Mineola, IA, USA
Wabash Trace Nature Trail
is a gorgeous, 63-mile trail that runs through Council Bluffs, Mineola, Silver City, Malvern, Imogene, Shenandoah, Coin, and Blanchard. Trail-goers will get the chance to walk the trail through the Loess Hills and enjoy some of the finest scenery in all of Iowa. This is easily one of the best places to hike in Iowa.
12. Coralville Reservoir
Coralville Dam Complex Campgrounds, 4053 W Overlook Rd NE, Iowa City, IA 52240, USA
There are several different hiking trails around
including the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, Sugar Bottom Mountain Bike Trail, Squire Point & Woodpecker Trail, Tailwater Riverwalk, and the Veterans Trail, which is wheelchair accessible.
13. Yellow River State Forest, Allamakee County
Yellow River State Forest, 729 State Forest Rd, Harpers Ferry, IA 52146, USA
Yellow River State Forest
is located in the southeastern corner of Allamakee County. There are a total of 45 miles of multipurpose trails that range from easy to moderate. On all of these Iowa trails, hikers can explore scenic overlooks, mature timber, rare bird species, trout streams, and many other natural wonders.
14. Clive Greenbelt Trail, Clive
Clive Greenbelt Trail, Clive, IA, USA
Clive Greenbelt Trail
is an 11-mile urban recreational trail in Clive. This very busy recreational trail runs through Polk and Dallas Counties in Iowa. It is a curvy, paved asphalt and concrete trail that offers some beautiful views while being one of the more kid-friendly hikes in Iowa.
15. Pilot Knob State Park, Forest City
Pilot Knob State Park, 2148 340th St, Forest City, IA 50436, USA
Pilot Knob State Park
is the second highest point in Iowa, giving visitors a spectacular view as well as a spectacular hike on one of the various different hiking and horseback riding trails. If you're on the hunt for some of the most scenic hikes in Iowa, Pilot Knob State Park is the key.
16. Stone State Park, Sioux City
Stone State Park Drive, Stone State Park Dr, Sioux City, IA, USA
Stone State Park
in Sioux City contains 6 miles of equestrian trails, 6 miles of mountain bike and snowmobile trails, and 8 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails, so adventurers of all kinds will find fun! Add this trail to your Iowa hiking bucket list!
17. The Trails at Brown's Woods: 465 Brown's Woods Dr, West Des Moines, IA 50265
Brown's Woods Drive, Brown's Woods Dr, West Des Moines, IA 50265, USA
18. Devil's Punch Bowl at Wildcat Den State Park: 1884 Wildcat Den Rd, Muscatine, IA 52761
Wildcat Den State Park, 1884 Wildcat Den Rd, Muscatine, IA 52761, USA
The Devil's Punch Bowl trail is just one of several at Wildcat Den State Park that are worth exploring. When it comes to scenic views and hiking, this is definitely one of the best parks in Iowa. The Devil's Punch Bowl trail is one of the shorter ones at the park, measuring just a single mile long. It's one of the best kid-friendly hikes in Iowa thanks to its interesting rock formations.
This hike proves that a trail doesn't have to be lengthy to be worth your while
19. Trails around Clear Lake
Clear Lake, IA 50428, USA
Clear Lake has trails that travel all around its beautiful lake, so you’ll have a water view along the whole way.
Visit Clear Lake State Park
for scenic hiking in the Hawkeye State.
20. Palisades-Kepler State Park, Mount Vernon
Palisades-Kepler State Park, 700 Kepler Dr, Mt Vernon, IA 52314, USA
This park is a great place for hiking. There are six miles of trails, with a plethora of wildlife, trees, and flowers to admire as you walk.
Palisades-Kepler State Park
is a great family-friendly destination for hiking, camping, and fishing.
21. Pony Hollow Trail, Elkader
Pony Hollow Trail, Elkader, IA 52043, USA
This 4-mile round trip hike starts at Elkader’s City Park and takes you along the old Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad beds. The view is definitely worth the trip, and this
trail in Clayton County, Iowa
is one you're sure to enjoy.
22. Gray’s Lake Park, Des Moines
Gray's Lake Park, 2101 Fleur Dr, Des Moines, IA 50315, USA
has an extensive trail system with a total of 60 miles of trails that are in the city or pass in and out of the city. The Downtown Des Moines Trail Loop has a trail that passes around the beautiful Gray Lake in Gray’s Lake Park.
Gray's Lake Park features an extensive network of
trails in Des Moines
23. Hoover Nature Trail
Hoover Nature Trail, Morning Sun, IA 52640, USA
The Hoover Nature Trail (HNT)
is a 24-mile-long eastern Iowa trail that follows the old Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad route between Burlington and Cedar Rapids. The trail can be used for biking, hiking, jogging, walking, cross-country skiing, and more. Portions of the trail are in varying stages of development. The sections near Ely, West Branch, Nichols, Columbus Junction, and Morning Sun are currently completed.
24. T-Bone Trail
Part of the American Discovery Trail, a non-motorized, paved route across the country, the
is in western Iowa. Its route is between Audubon and Pymosa township and stretches approximately 20 miles. The trail affords beautiful countryside views and follows a former railway. Plus, just outside Audubon, you can see the largest concrete bull in the world at Albert the Bull Park!
25. Mississippi River Trail
Mississippi River Trail, Camanche, IA, USA
The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) runs along the Mississippi River, about 3,000 miles through 10 states. You can join this route at many spots in Iowa along the Mississippi. Whether you’re looking for biking or hiking, this trail offers many scenic views of the river, as well as wildlife, bird watching, and many opportunities for amazing photographs.
26. Karr Nature Trail
Cordova Park, 1378 Hwy G 28, Otley, IA 50214, USA
Visit the Red Rock Lake area and the
Karr Nature Trail at Cordova Park
. This one-mile hiking and biking trail along the Des Moines River is a leisurely trail. And when you’re done, take advantage of the many outdoor recreation opportunities as well, from mushroom hunting to swimming to fishing and more.
27. Neal Smith and John Pat Dorrian Trails
Neal Smith Trail, Des Moines, IA, USA
The Neal Smith Trail
is a 26-mile multi-use trail that allows for many outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, running, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The John Pat Dorrian Trail offers sweeping views of the Des Moines River and great bird watching for a variety of birds, like great blue herons, white pelicans, and bald eagles. The Saylorville Lake Visitor Center is a popular stop along the trail, where you can see one of the largest butterfly gardens in the state.
28. Heritage Trail
Heritage Trail, Dubuque, IA, USA
From Dyersville to Dubuque, the Heritage Trail is a 26-mile trail that passes through many terrains, like woodlands, limestone bluffs, wetlands, and prairies. Because it follows the former Chicago Northwestern rail bed, you can see traces of old mining and mill towns along the trail.
29. Old Creamery Nature Trail
Old Creamery Nature Trail - Benton County Conservation, 5718 20th Avenue Drive, Dysart to Garrison to Vinton, Vinton, IA 52349, USA
The Old Creamery Trail
connects Vinton to Garrison and Garrison to Dysart. It is about 15 miles long. While some areas of the trail are rough limestone, you can walk, bike, run, and snowmobile here.
30. Iowa Great Lakes Trail
Great Lakes Spine Trail, Arnolds Park, IA, USA
The Iowa Great Lakes Trail is a multi-use, 14-mile trail that passes through the Iowa Great Lakes region, including Spirit Lake, Okoboji, West Okoboji, Arnolds Park, Milford, and Lake Park. You can also enjoy all of the outdoor recreation activities that come with these beautiful lakes.
31. Trout Run Trail
Dug Road, Dug Rd, Decorah, IA 52101, USA
The Trout Run Trail
is a paved recreation trail that follows a 12-mile loop around the beautiful city of Decorah in northeast Iowa. The trail affords abundant scenic beauty, including limestone bluffs, algific talus slopes, the Oneota Valley, and the Upper Iowa River. The trail is also punctuated with sculptures and mosaics. This is a multi-use trail that’s great for biking, walking, running, and cross-country skiing.
What do you consider the best hikes in Iowa? Do you have anything you’d like to add to our list of epic hiking spots in Iowa? Let us know and share some of them in the comments below! You can also find more hikes in Iowa by signing up for
If you want to see more of what Iowa has to offer, check out
These 9 Hidden Waterfalls In Iowa Will Take Your Breath Away.
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More to Explore
Epic Hiking Spots In Iowa
What is the best time of the year to hike in Iowa?
Spring through fall is the best time of year to
hike in Iowa. Winter can get pretty cold and many people aren’t equipped with the proper gear for striking out in single-degree temperatures.
What’s the best time of year to visit Iowa?
Locals claim August has the best weather and is host to the awesome annual event — the
Iowa State Fair. Food, bands, and 4-H fun dot the booths and get everyone out to enjoy this fun fair.